Despite my theological training and my years as a pastor, I carry deep within me an expectation that Advent will be an orderly and predictable progression from Advent 1 to Christmas Eve. In my mind, the candles in the Advent wreath are burned in nice uniform steps.
But life isn't that way, is it? And neither is Advent. Advent is as full of the unexpected, the disruptive, as any other time of year. During Advent in my first call, my grandfather died. An unanticipated trip to Pennsylvania to be with family and speak at the funeral meant that the Advent candle for that week didn't get to burn down the way I had expected. Another year our first child was born. Another year my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Another year a friend's son was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident. Another year my brother found out that his cancer had come back.
Probably our most meaningful Christmas as a family was when we had to cancel a week in Bermuda with extended family because of a dubious MRI that looked like the return of a brain tumor. We had no commitments, no parties to attend, no gifts to wrap. We just had ourselves, and we experienced Christmas in a way more profound than we ever had before.
The Advent texts we read are not particularly comforting. They tell of divisions and upheavals. That may not be what we expect to hear in Advent. We want to hear about the coming of the Christ child-peace on earth, good will towards all.
In my experience, Advent shows us why we need peace on earth, good will towards all.
Jessica Crist, Bishop